During the first half of the eighteenth century, law, paperwork and legalities were unifying vehicles in the development of a French empire. The empire was a structure dealing with civilians (sailors, planters, merchants, craftsmen) supporting economic activities overseas. Courts, law and paperwork contributed to establishing royal authority over new territories through their status as key institutions supporting people in their private dealings and disputes. The daily routine of jurisdictions and legalities were milestones in the advent of an overseas empire that became a proper political formation before the Seven Years War. This article looks into three main moments: the expansion of paperwork and jurisdictions under Louis XIV; the process of lawmaking and differentiating colonies from France, until the Regency; and finally the collection of, and attempts to harmonise, local colonial regulations by Maurepas and his agents.


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